At the end of October, a 73-year-old man was beaten so badly by a group of teenagers in the Dutch town of Arnhem that he later died from his injuries. Dutch police say this is the most recent and serious example of a ‘pedophile hunt’ sweeping the country.
According to local police, the man, who was a retired teacher, was in an online chat room where he agreed to meet a 15-year-old boy for sex. The man knew the boy was underage, authorities say, but there was no evidence that he had had sexual contact with underage boys. The man proceeded to an agreed meeting point on October 28, where he was ambushed by the group of teenagers. He died in hospital a few hours later.
Seven teenagers were arrested. According to BBC News, the lawyer for the 15-year-old man the man intended to meet said his client had drawn up the plan to hunt pedophiles “out of boredom in this corona period”. The teenagers’ legal representatives argued that they only planned to confront the man and did not intend to attack him. They claim the situation got out of hand after the man awkwardly fell.
But Arnhem is far from an isolated incident. Reports say there have been 250 incidents involving so-called pedophile hunters in the Netherlands, and Dutch police, after the death, are pleading for this to stop.
According to BBC News, the regional police chief of the Eastern Netherlands, Oscar Dros, ordered Dutch citizens “to stop pedal boat hunting; stop detaining; stop provoking – let us do it. This practice has been banned by police and public prosecutors, but it is still ongoing. Dros said he had seen incidents when targets were forced off the road, physically assaulted and publicly shamed on social media.
The Dutch police chief said the groups’ efforts were misguided because “the evidence these citizens believe they have is often as thin as paper.” He couldn’t cite an example of a hunt leading to a conviction for a sex crime.
The hunters are largely coordinating their efforts on Facebook, where a group with names like pedohuntnl has reportedly gathered thousands of members. A member of the group told the Dutch network NOS that they just wanted to “protect the children,” and said the men descended on underage members of the chat room knowing they were underage.
People gathered in Arnhem to pay their respects to the man earlier this week. According to reports, he had several children and grandchildren, and his neighbors described him as a kind and friendly man.